Race Weekend Central

Corey Heim Snags COTA Truck Win

On an afternoon when mistakes plagued other contenders, Corey Heim and the No. 11 Toyota TRICON Garage team were flawless.

Heim led 31 laps and won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225 Saturday (March 23) at Circuit of the Americas for his sixth career win and first of 2024.

A nine-second lead built up by Heim was erased with a late caution when Lawless Alan stalled out on track. After the restart with five to go, Marco Andretti’s rear housing broke to bring out a red flag and force overtime.

Heim managed his fuel and the field late, crediting his preparation post race for staying out of trouble.

“I just prepared so hard for this race,” Heim said in his FOX Sports 1 post-race interview. “The Safelite Toyota Tundra was phenomenal. Huge thanks to Trevor Bayne for my pre-race stuff, he’s helped me so much.

“So much help through so many different areas for me. I came into this race last year and just struggled. I finished sixth with a penalty and was just all over the place. To put together a solid race like this is so special and it just shows how good our trucks are back in the shop.”

TRICON teammate Taylor Gray finished second after overcoming a violation on the initial start of the race. Gray was told prior to the final restart that he’d need to pit for fuel, but ultimately stayed out for his third top five of the season.

“I debatably ruined the race at the beginning by getting that penalty,” Gray told FS1. “The heat of the emotions got to me a little bit after that but I can’t thank all the guys for rebounding so well.”

Ty Majeski took third and picked up a pair of runner-up stage finishes along the way to add to his points total.

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Nobody’s day compared to what 17-year-old Connor Zilisch overcame to finish fourth in his NASCAR debut. 

The pole-sitter’s race nearly ended in turn 1 when he overshot it. Zilisch kept it out of the gravel trap, but went a lap down after he pit to repair a broken sway bar. The No. 7 Chevy from Spire Motorsports was running two to three seconds faster than anyone on track, but mistakes continued to pile up for Zilisch after getting the free pass. 

Zilisch spun out on lap 17 and was penalized for exceeding track limits but recovered again to finish second in stage two. Zilisch’s chance to contend for the win started to fade after developing a tire rub after contact with Majeski early in stage three and then receiving another pass through penalty with five laps to go.

After using the penalty to take fresh tires and gas, Zilisch managed to bring home a top five.

“Straight chaos start-to-finish,” Zilisch said. “I had two pass throughs, got spun out one time. I had way too many mistakes, but the end result shows how fast our truck was with those mistakes. It’s frustrating that I couldn’t have a better run, but honestly I’m sure I’ll have more races in this truck and I know I’m guaranteed two more at the end of the year.”

Ross Chastain finished fifth for Niece Motorsports in the No. 45 truck. Zilisch said Chastain, with whom he’s teammates as a prospect signed to Trackhouse Racing, talked to him post race about his day.

“He just told me to keep my head up,” Zilisch said. “He let me by on that restart and kind of made it easy for me to get by. He’s a really nice guy … I’m sure he’ll continue to be a good teammate for me. It’s really cool to have him on my side and have him supporting me.”

TRICON Garage’s No. 1 entry managed sixth with IMSA driver Jack Hawksworth behind the wheel. Matt Crafton finished seventh, with Ben Rhodes and Christian Eckes taking eighth and ninth after starting in the rear of the field. Dean Thompson rounded out the top 10. 

Nick Sanchez was the beneficiary of several teams, including Heim, making strategy calls to pit before the end of stage one. Sanchez won the stage with Majeski second and Tanner Gray third.

Heim wrestled with Hawksworth for the lead on the stage two restart before ultimately pulling away. Meanwhile, Sanchez was penalized for exceeding track limits and then took a spin entering the backstretch. Sanchez ultimately settled for an 18th-place finish.

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Heim battled Rhodes on a restart with two laps to go in stage two. Heim won the stage, with Majeski taking second and Rhodes finishing third.

While Zilisch finally managed to find his way to the front to start the final stage, Heim was now the fastest on track with a nine-second lead before Alan stalled out for a second time to bring out a caution.

Another late caution was brought out when the No. 04 Chevy from Roper Racing Team completely lost the rear-end housing. Andretti finished 31st in what proved to be another disappointing weekend.

“Just big vibrations through the brake pedal, acceleration, just huge vibrations,” Andretti told Frontstretch. “We were limping around, I didn’t even have second gear. I’m done with these character builders. I think my character’s built at this point and we’re ready for a straightforward weekend because I haven’t been able to fight yet this season, and it’s getting a little frustrating.”

This was the first Truck race at COTA not won by the No. 38 Ford from Front Row Motorsports. Rookie Layne Riggs looked to be in position early to contend for a fourth-straight win for his team, but a power issue during stage one relegated him to a 27th-place finish, three laps down.

COTA Truck Results

The Truck Series will be in action again on April 5 for the Long John Silver’s 200 at Martinsville Speedway. Coverage will be at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

About the author

James Krause joined Frontstretch in March 2024 as a contributor. Krause was born and raised in Illinois and graduated from Northern Illinois University. He currently works in La Crosse, Wisconsin as a local sports reporter, including short track racing. Krause is a fan of football, auto racing, music, anime and video games.

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Drew

I’m very happy that Corey heim has won at the circuit of the Americas but I’m also looking forward to seeing him at Lucas oil Indianapolis raceway park on Friday July nineteenth.

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